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South Deerfield senior housing takes step forward

  • A few “Save our Sugarloaf” signs on Sugarloaf Street, across from a proposed senior housing development at the base of Mount Sugarloaf. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Planning Board Chairman John Waite looks through town bylaws at a meeting Monday, Oct. 3. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Phil Allard speaks in favor of a proposed senior housing development on Sugarloaf Street at the base of Mount Sugarloaf during a Planning Board meeting Monday, Oct. 3. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Deerfield Planning Board meeting Monday, Oct. 3. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Developer Mark Wightman addresses concerns about a proposed senior housing development on Sugarloaf Street during a Planning Board meeting Monday, Oct. 3. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo



For the Gazette
Saturday, October 08, 2016

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The Planning Board unamiously approved the preliminary plans for a proposed senior housing development off Sugarloaf Street Monday night. 

The developer now has seven months to create a definitive site plan, which also will be brought to the Planning Board. Following that, there will be a public hearing and time for more in-depth discussion.

The proposed development — first brought before the board in June, and again in September — calls for a condominium project of 36 buildings split into 72 apartments at the base of Mount Sugarloaf. Under the proposal, the condominiums would be limited to people 55 and older. Developer Mark Wightman said he has already spoken with 10 people interested in purchasing units, seven of whom are from Deerfield.

The majority of the meeting was taken up with the logistics of zoning bylaws, specifically about how to solve potential stormwater runoff problems. Patricia A. Smith, a representative from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments providing guidance on the process, said the preliminary plan — which is not required — is incredibly detailed. She said the developer started the process early in order to gather reaction from local officials and town residents.

Deborah Henson, a resident of Mountain Road who is the environmental science program manager at the University of Massachusetts, voiced concern that digging basements and installing drainage infrastructure to control runoff would inadvertently flood neighboring basements because “there’s already potentially a high water table.”

“I’m concerned about the water table and I’m concerned about (water) in my basement,” Henson said during public comment.

Other concerns expressed included increased traffic flow such a development would bring. Also highlighted was a request by the developer to waive a section of the bylaws which requires curb cuts to be spaced at least 600 feet apart, in order to build in-roads closer together.

When questioned about how much each unit would cost, Wightman said he foresees two different scales, one based on market value — described as “a substantial price” — the other, classified as affordable housing, offered at a reduced rate made possible through state Community Preservation Act funding.

Chairman John Waite reiterated that the Planning Board’s decision only addressed whether or not the proposed plan meets the town bylaws, and “has nothing to do with how residents feel.” He said the next step — a definitive site plan — will allow time for formal public input.

“Wildlife issues, traffic, noise, light, all of those things will be taken into consideration in the definitive site plan,” Waite said, adding that during that review, questions about water runoff and urban density will also be addressed.

In support of the project, Phil Allard, a resident of Hillside Road, said that the town has been stagnant for some time and needs new development.

“I happen to think this is a good program,” Allard said. “Deerfield can’t just sit and not grow. These are good people, and they’ll take care of any problems that come up. Everything that’s going on down there, we can work it out to a positive end. This is a good project. It doesn’t serve all answers, but it’s a lot better than an empty lot that doesn’t do anything.”